With mandatory nationwide restaurant closures – except for takeout and delivery – you may be panicking about how to keep your new restaurant afloat during this uncertain time.
Fortunately, there are still innovative ways to help drive revenue and connect with your prospective customers.
In this article, we’ll cover step-by-step marketing strategies you can use to promote your new restaurant right now, including how to:
- Use Facebook and Instagram live to connect with your community
- Promote takeout and delivery as a new restaurant
- Create a virtual opening on social media
- Leverage social media to promote coronavirus meal kits
- Promote gift cards to boost your bottom line
- Create COVID-19 email campaigns
Let’s get started!
Use Facebook and Instagram Live to Get to Know and Connect with Your Community
While you were planning, building, hiring, and opening your new restaurant, you probably didn’t have a lot of downtime to connect with your Facebook and Instagram community. Now is the time to get to know your followers and increase your reach for any initiatives you decide to run with from this list.
Here are some ways you can expand your reach and serve your local community through Facebook and Instagram live:
- Do a live Q&A
- Host virtual cooking classes
- Host a virtual happy hour
- Tell people the story behind your restaurant
- Give people a behind-the-scenes look at your restaurant
Going live on these platforms will help you build your brand during this time while directly engaging with your target audience. Try to go live a few times a week throughout the duration of this pandemic to keep your restaurant top-of-mind for your ideal customers.
Promote Takeout and Delivery as a New Restaurant
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread rapidly across the United States and people are encouraged to stay home – whether it’s through government recommendations or shelter-in-place orders – you may be wondering how to promote your new restaurant when customers are prohibited from dining in.
This is where takeout and delivery come in. When you promote your takeout and delivery offerings, you can promote your business and reach new customers while supplementing your revenue stream. To get started, determine which takeout and delivery options best suit your business needs.
There are several ways you can utilize takeout right now that will keep diners and your team safe, including in-house or curbside pickup.
In-house pickup is when a customer places an order in person, over the phone, or online using an integrated POS provider (such as TouchBistro online ordering). Then, they physically come inside your restaurant to pick up their order once it’s ready to go.
In contrast, curbside takeout is when a customer calls in or places an order online for takeout and waits outside (either in their car or on foot) to collect their order.
Both of these options are available to you, and you can offer whichever one suits your specific business needs. For example, if you’re a one-person show, you might opt for the in-house pick-up option. But, if you still have staff on hand, curbside pickup might be better for your business because it will enable you to monitor who comes in and out of your restaurant.
How to Market Takeout for Your New Restaurant
Setting your restaurant up for takeout success, especially if you planned on being a full service, sitdown establishment might seem overwhelming. But, the process is pretty simple and straightforward.
First, update your website to reflect your takeout offerings. Do you have a limited menu? Fixed prices? Family meals or discounts? Have your hours of operation changed? Can your customers pre-order food? Make sure your online presence accurately depicts what you can offer customers.
Next, focus on using social media as a promotional tool. You can run paid ads, join local community groups online, and post on your social media pages indicating your restaurant is open for business and accepting takeout orders.
Encourage your social media followers and your local community to place and order with you by offering an incentive such as a discount off their first order or a free add-on with their purchase.
There are several ways you can take and process delivery orders, including your website, an integrated POS solution, Facebook, or third-party providers like:
Each of these options will allow your customers to place delivery orders online, and then it will be up to you to prepare and fulfill those orders. Third-party providers generally charge a fee – sometimes up to 30% – but they can be a good way to market to a captive audience who might not otherwise know about your new restaurant.
How to Market Delivery for Your New Restaurant
If you use a third-party platform for delivery (such as one listed above) you’ll start by listing your restaurant and menu on the platform. Then customers in your area will be able to find your menu online and place an order.
All of these providers have large databases of hungry people searching for restaurants to order food from. This is good news for you because it means you won’t have to do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to marketing your delivery services.
While these third-party platforms are great for raising awareness and garnering local customers, the high fees may not be realistic for your bottom line long-term. To bypass these fees, let customers know how to order directly from your website for future orders. Include a printed version of your menu inside each order alongside an incentive such as free delivery, 10% off the first order, a free appetizer, or something else that the customer would find valuable so they order directly from you in the future versus an outside platform. Make sure to indicate clearly on your website where and how to place an order for delivery.
Also, you’ll still want to get the word out that you’re open and accepting delivery orders. Similar to takeout, leverage social media to promote your offers – especially if you offer multiple delivery options such as a third-party provider as well as in-house delivery couriers.
Consider running a promotion for first-time customers ordering delivery – a percentage off the total bill or a free add-on menu item. Also, make sure you give customers the option to choose contact-free delivery because a lot of people are trying to be cautious about who they’re coming into contact with.
Also, right now a little bit of humanity goes a long way – so if you have the capacity, include a personalized “thank you” note on the outer packaging of each takeout and delivery order. Something such as, “We’re all in this together! Thank you for supporting me, and I look forward to continuing to serve you!” This will require a bit more effort on your part but will do wonders for creating repeat customers because it shows your new customers you care.
Create a Virtual “Grand Opening” on Social Media
As a new restaurant, you’ve probably spent a long time planning for your grand opening. From the food and concept to your staff and decor, you’ve been preparing for this day for what feels like an eternity.
But, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and you didn’t have a chance to give your restaurant the grand opening you were hoping for. So what now?
Adapt. Innovate. And meet your prospective customers where they are: online.
Millions of people nationwide are stuck at home due to the shelter-in-place orders. Now is the time to use social media to your advantage, and set up a virtual grand opening where customers can celebrate with you and get a taste of your restaurant’s offerings from the comfort of their homes.
Here are some ideas to inspire your virtual celebration:
- Create an Eventbrite “Grand Opening” event: Share the invite with your social media followers, email list, friends, family, and local businesses.
- Put out an exclusive offer: Create an exclusive offer such as a free appetizer or meal when your venue fully opens to the public at a later date. Or what about free printable recipes, free virtual cooking lessons, or something else your prospective customers would find valuable.
- Survey your audience: Create a Facebook or Instagram poll and ask your prospective customers and community what they’d find valuable, entertaining, and fun for a live virtual opening
- Make it a party: Go live with your drool-worthy dishes, cocktails, and offerings to showcase what people will get when they order from your venue or visit your restaurant. Play music and keep it upbeat!
Once your virtual celebration is planned, spend a few days promoting it on social media via Facebook and Instagram stories, as well as posts. Add the details of the day and time your event will be so people know when you join, and then use Facebook or Instagram live to host it.
Your virtual opening is an opportunity for you to connect with your community while bringing people together for a fun, lighthearted, social event!
Also, make sure you collect as much customer contact information as you can. All of the names and email addresses you gather through your virtual event will help you generate sales in the future. You can also use your virtual event as an opportunity to sell gift cards for your restaurant, which gives you immediate cash flow now and guaranteed customers in the future.
Leverage Social Media to Promote Coronavirus Meal Kits
Recently, there’s been a huge surge in bulk shopping. People have been stocking up on everything from toilet paper to nonperishable goods. While fear is likely the dominant force behind this behavior, as a new restaurant you can delight your customers by offering pre-prepped meal kits.
Here are some examples of what meal kits can look like:
To get started, take a poll on social media and find out which of your easy-to-make dishes your followers would like to receive. Then use the most popular answers to create perfectly-portioned, ready-to-make dishes. If you don’t have a big follower base right now, make your kits based on whatever menu items you want to highlight – for example, if you’re a taco shop maybe you create taco kits or if you’re a vegan restaurant you offer salad kits.
Include printed or digital step-by-step instructions so your customers know exactly how to prepare the kit once they receive it.
Once you know what you’ll be offering, use Facebook and Instagram to market your meal kits. Here are some ideas for how you can leverage social media for this:
- Host a giveaway: Showcase an image of your meal kit, and then post it to your Facebook and Instagram feed. Let your followers know you’ll be giving away one free meal kit every day. To be entered to win, they simply need to engage with your post by liking, commenting, sharing and/or tagging two friends. Then announce the winner of the day on your Facebook and Instagram live.
- Offer a discount: Incentivize people to market your meal kits for you on social media by offering a set discount when they do, and tagging your restaurant. Then repost all of their posts on your Instagram and Facebook stories. This will help you increase your social reach so more people in your community know about your restaurant’s kits.
- Go live: Do a Facebook and Instagram live video of unboxing and preparing your meal kit. This will set the stage and show your customers how easy it is to prepare the meal and get them excited about ordering one.
These meal kits work best pre-ordered because then you can anticipate exactly how much inventory you’ll need, and whether or not you’ll require additional staff to get the contents prepped and packed. Let your customers know how to place their order, what the delivery time frame is, how often they can order, and when new kits will be made available.
Promote Gift Cards to Boost your Bottom Line
Unlike the rest of your inventory, gift cards won’t go bad. What’s more, they can be used as an immediate revenue stream to help your restaurant navigate this crisis.
Here’s how they work: The buyer purchases the card upfront – either physical or digital – and then redeems it at a later date. Regardless if the gift card is ever redeemed or not, you still get paid upfront.
Selling gift cards now can help you boost your bottom line by making up for lost revenue due to forced closures. Here are a few ways you can market gift cards:
- Create a gift card promotion: Incentivize people to buy your gift cards by offering promotions. For example, if you sell a $50 gift card, you could offer a free bottle of house wine with it or a $10 add-on for free.
- Add your restaurant to Dining Bonds: To combat the financial strain COVID-19 is having on restaurants, Dining Bonds was created as a way for restaurants to reach and be supported by people in their community, and get immediate funds. It works by adding your restaurant to the Dining Bonds map, and then offering a gift card or voucher that is sold for a discounted rate, and can later be redeemed by the buyer at face value when they dine at your restaurant.
- Spread the news: Let people know you sell gift cards and tell them how to redeem them. People are actively looking for ways to support local businesses right now, and many people are buying gift cards to help restaurants.
- Create a raffle: In exchange for customer support, create a raffle with a “grand prize” of your choosing (such as a free dinner with drinks at your restaurant, a 4-week supply of survival kits, etc.) and enter everyone who purchases a gift card. Then announce the winner on social media.
- Host a limited time one-for-one campaign: If you have the funds available, set up a limited time one-for-one campaign where each time someone purchases a gift card, you donate a gift card to an organization or hospital in need. This will generate positive PR for your restaurant, and incentivize people to purchase a gift card.
- Email your list: If you have an email list, let them know they can buy gift cards from you, and how to purchase.
- Update your website: Make sure your website reflects whatever gift card promotion or offering you have available.
Create an “At-Home Specials” Email Campaign
Screen time is on the rise, and people are on their phones now more than ever checking emails and reading coronavirus-related updates. Take advantage of this opportunity, and send out relevant, timely emails that will help you promote your restaurant offerings.
For example, you could create a four-part email series with at-home meal ideas. Each email could feature a dish from your menu, its origin story, recipe, and a step-by-step guide on how to make that dish. Then, you could use the email series to promote your survival kits, gift cards, takeout, or delivery.
By creating value-packed email campaigns, you’ll be able to directly reach your target customers and get them to take action thereby increasing sales!
These six marketing ideas will help you strategically navigate the COVID-19 pandemic in an innovative, productive way. Good luck and stay safe!